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Morning Memo: Harris stakes his ground; GOP lawmaker presses McCrory

HARRIS DECLARES HE'S THE SOCIAL CONSERVATIVE IN THE RACE: The Rev. Mark Harris, a leading social conservative, entered the North Carolina Senate race Wednesday, setting up a potential insider/outsider GOP primary showdown next May with House Speaker Thom Tillis.

Harris, the outgoing president of the state Baptist Convention, said he would campaign as a staunch advocate for lowering taxes, reducing government, ending Obamacare and protecting gun rights, that he would back measures that he believes would improve “traditional moral values.” Read more here.

GOP SENATOR SAYS McCRORY ADMINISTRATION IS BREAKING THE LAW: A high-ranking Republican state senator said Wednesday that Gov. Pat McCrory’s administration is flouting the law. Sen. Bob Rucho, R-Mecklenburg, complained that McCrory hasn’t named an independent Unemployment Review Board to review decisions on unemployment benefits made by the state Division of Employment Security. Rucho’s remarks came during a legislative committee meeting where lawmakers were questioning Dale Folwell, the agency’s head. Read more here.

***Read more on the Harris announcement and a North Carolina political roundup below in the Dome Morning Memo.***

Morning Memo: Tillis dodges shutdown questions; McHenry pressed on Obamacare

TILLIS DODGES GOVERNMENT SHUTDOWN QUESTION: Republican Thom Tillis is emphasizing his opposition to the federal health care law in his campaign for the U.S. Senate but at the same time he's avoiding answering some questions on the issue. A Democratic Party operative recently asked the Republican House speaker about whether he agrees with Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and others who suggested shutting down government to defund the federal health care law.

While walking to a recent D.C. fundraiser, Tillis didn't offer a direct answer -- even though if elected he may face similar circumstance. "It's not my decision to make but anything we could do to slow down or eliminate Obamacare would be good for the nation," he said in a video posted online. (Watch above.)

Does Tillis agree with North Carolina Sen. Richard Burr that a shutdown is the "dumbest idea" ever? Again no answer. "I'm going to leave that to the duly elected senators but i think we can do to stop Sen. Hagan and President Obama from creating all the uncertainty and cost that comes with Obamacare it would be a good thing," he said. Expect both questions to return soon.

***See the Tillis video below in the Dome Morning Memo, along with another video from Republicans punking people at the "Moral Monday" rally.

Morning Memo: Perdue closes her campaign for good, leave Democratic party hanging

PERDUE CLOSES CAMPAIGN ACCOUNT: From AP: Former N.C. Gov. Beverly Perdue has closed her campaign accounts, distributing the more than $1.2 million political war chest raised for her derailed 2012 re-election bid. Nearly $800,000 went to the Democrat and her husband to repay personal loans made to her political campaigns between 2000 and 2008, according to campaign finance disclosure reports filed last week with the N.C. Board of Elections.

Another $200,000 went to a pair of writers assisting Perdue with her autobiography and about $120,000 went to a charity. Most of the remainder was paid to lawyers and campaign staff.

***Find out who Perdue left off her campaign spending list below in the Dome Morning Memo.***

Ex Catawba Co. sheriff named ED of Gov's Crime Comm

Former Catawba County Sheriff David Huffman was named executive director of the Governor's Crime Commission Friday by Gov. Pat McCrory.

Huffman retired as sheriff in 2010 after 28 years. He will replace Gwendolyn W. Burell.

“David's thirty plus years in law enforcement demonstrate his passion and commitment to preventing crime and keeping North Carolina residents safe,” the governor said in a statement.

Huffman has long been involved in GOP politics, having served as a county commissioner. In 2004, he came close to being elected to Congress, losing a GOP runoff to Patrick McHenry by a 50.2 to 49.8 percent margin in a heavily Republican district, after leading in the first primary.

Huffman's campaign was damaged by revelations that he had accepted a $100,000 loan not allowed under campaign finance law, from a local beer distributor who also served as his finance chairman. Huffman attributed the loan to a simple oversight and said he is campaign had sought an opinion from the Federal Election Commission on its own initiative.

The Governor's Crime Commission serves the chief advisory body to the governor and the secretary of public safety on crime and justice issues.

Morning Memo: As storm approaches, House set for major tax vote

TODAY AT THE STATEHOUSE: As a tropical storm hits Raleigh, the House will meet in its first full Friday session this year to debate a tax bill that represents one of the most expansive policy changes in decades. At the same time, appropriation subcommittees will meet to roll out the House budget, meeting before and after session. The Senate adjourned until Monday. The House action precedes what is expected to be a busy time next week in Raleigh with budget and taxes, among dozens of other bills, moving quickly as the legislature nears adjournment toward the end of the month. Top GOP lawmakers will rush from the statehouse to Charlotte for the state Republican Party convention. Gov. Pat McCrory will hold a reception at the convention this evening.

NEW NUMBERS SHOW TAX BILLS AFFECTS: The median North Carolina family would get a modest tax break while wealthy taxpayers may see a significant cut under a sweeping bill primed for a landmark House vote Friday. (Read more below.)

***Special Friday Dome Morning Memo edition. Read more about the tax plan on the House floor below and a recap from President Barack Obama's visit.***

Morning Memo: UNC-CH gets new chancellor; McHenry won't challenge Hagan

UNC-CHAPEL HILL TO GET FIRST WOMAN CHANCELLOR: As first reported by The News & Observer, UNC system officials will name Carol Folt, the interim president of Dartmouth College, as the next chancellor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Folt, 61, would be the first woman to lead the campus in Chapel Hill, where the 29,000-member student body is 58 percent female. She will succeed Holden Thorp, who is stepping down by July 1 to become provost at Washington University in St. Louis. Full story.

McHENRY WON'T CHALLENGE HAGAN: N.C. Congressman Patrick McHenry took his name out of the crowded field of potential challengers to Democratic U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan, who faces re-election in 2014. Polls put McHenry in the top half of Republicans. "I'm grateful for the good numbers, but I think I've got a better opportunity to make a difference here in the House," McHenry told the Mountain Xpress in Asheville. "I want to end the distraction about this potential Senate run so I can get back and focus on the work that I need to be doing to help get this economy going."

***Good morning. Thanks for reading the Friday edition of the Dome Morning Memo. Much more N.C political news and analysis below.***

Ellmers receives award from American Conservative Union

The American Conservative Union has named U.S. Rep. Renee Ellmers of Dunn one of its 2012 ACU Conservatives.

A whopping 91 percent of Ellmers' votes made the ACU happy, but she still fell short of its Defender of Liberty title which requires every vote on certain bills picked by ACU to match the organization's desires. ACU looks at votes on bills that "serve as a clear litmus test separating those representatives who defend liberty and liberal members who have turned their backs on our founding principles."

The ACU argues for limited government, individual liberty, free markets, a strong national defense and traditional values.

Other N.C. representatives who scored above 80 percent included Howard Coble of Greensboro, Virginia Foxx of Banner Elk, Patrick McHenry of Cherryville and Sue Myrick of Charlotte, who is now retired.

The ACU award comes the day after the Club for Growth — which supports limited growth and low taxes — tagged Ellmers as a RINO (Republican In Name Only) and put her on a a list of Republicans that scored below 70 percent on the club's scorecard.

A Hagan-Berry shoot out in 14?

Labor Commissioner Cherie Berry leads potential Republican challengers to Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan, according to a new poll.

Berry leads a potential field of Republicans with 18 percent, followed by Congresswoman Virginia Foxx with 16 percent among GOP voters, according to a survey by Public Policy Polling, a Democratic-leaning firm based in Raleigh.

Rounding out the Republican field, U.S. Reps. Renee Ellmers and Patrick McHenry have 10 percent, state Senate leader Phil Berger has 7 percent, with 5 percent going to Greg Brannon, 3 percent for US. Rep. George Holding and and House Speaker Thom Tillis and 1 percent for Terry Embler.

Hagan leads all possible nine Republican opponents by margins of five to 15 points.

Hagan leads prospective GOP opponents in 2014 race

North Carolina voters are divided about Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan, but she leads any of prospective Republican opponents, according to a new poll.

Only 34 percent of voters approve of the job that Hagan is doing, while 36 percent disapprove, and 31 percent have no opinion, according to a survey by Public Policy Polling, a Democratic leaning firm based in Raleigh.

But Hagan leads all potential opponents. She leads GOP Congresswoman Renee Ellmers by a 46-40 percent margin, Congressman Patrick McHenry by a 45-39 percent margin, and Congresswoman Virginia Foxx by a 47-40 percent margin.

She also leads Congressman George Holding by a 45-37 percent margin, Congressman Robert Pittenger by a 46-38 percent margin, state Senate leader Phil Berger by a 47-38 percent margin, and state House Speaker Thom Tillis by a 47-37 percent margin.

PPP: Foxx an early GOP favorite to challenge Hagan

While conservative groups are starting to drop money in an effort to push Sen. Kay Hagan out of office in 2014, the liberal-leaning Public Policy Polling on Tuesday released a poll that gives an early look at who the GOP is most likely to line up against the first-term Democrat.

Rep. Virginia Foxx tops Republicans' wish list at 17 percent. 14 percent prefer Sue Myrick, 13 percent want Patrick McHenry and 11 percent Renee Ellmers.

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